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Firaxis Games talks about designing and developing the superhero tactical experience of Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Can you talk about how the team achieved the game’s visual art style?Dennis Moellers, Art Director:

We had a treasure trove of inspiration to work from in Marvel’s vast lexicon. Our challenge was to make art that was rooted in the character lore while also giving the fan base something they hadn’t quite seen before. We decided to translate Marvel’s comics style—energetic, visually clear, powerful, with explosive action—into gameplay by keeping the character designs instantly recognizable and pushing the animation to extremes. Our characters don’t walk into a room—they fly, or burst through a wall. We studied the spectacular, dynamic poses of Marvel comic artists like Jim Lee and Andy Kubert.

We had a lot of fun animating each enemy Lilin to fit their specific character traits and design, because we wanted the individuality to stand apart as a point of interest. For instance, the Guardian is mainly a rock-golem protector of more important Lilin, so his movements are heavy, like stone, and he rages and roars when he’s defending an ally. In contrast, the Nest Mother, a direct offspring of Lilith, has an ethereal, regal power that translates into a proud, intimidating, and graceful floating creature. Our goal was to push the Lilin’s animation to the level of expressiveness and creepiness you find in comic books like the 90’s Spirits of Vengeance.

While designing the heroes, we saw their suits as a way to pull together this diverse team into one super group. They all come from different teams—the Midnight Suns, Avengers, and X-Men—some of which have a much brighter look, so we knew we wanted to somehow bring them all over to the darker side of Marvel. It became pretty clear that the punk, black leather, metal studs style was the most exciting way to unify this team.

Visual clarity is really important in a fast-paced Marvel story—everyone needs to be instantly recognizable as the action is flying. So, we had to prioritize clear silhouettes and color blocking over too much texture or detail, to give everything that necessary pop. But of course, we also wanted to draw upon the history of these characters and incorporate that into a meaningful design. When the heroes upgrade to their Midnight Suns armor, glyphs appear to represent the ancient Strange’s magic, and gold enters the palette to mirror the metallic sheen of Iron Man’s armor. Our goal was to make them look as though they’re radiating supernatural power—a modern twist on the traditional superhero suits.

Can you talk about your approach to designing the game’s world and levels?

Moellers: It was important that the environments have dramatic set pieces to hit the Marvel style. Instead of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum merely being partially covered by vine-like corruption, we pushed it up into the sky like a dark cathedral. We always asked ourselves if we could make something more dynamic or exciting in the environment, and if it could help push the story forward. And really, living up to the Marvel art legacy meant a lot of pushing the art as far as it could go—making it more powerful, more bombastic.

When Lilith starts to take over, it was important to get a supernatural feeling to the world. We used lighting and color grading to create this uncanny mood for each environment. We amped up the greenish tones and desaturated the warmth to give the player an uneasy, unnatural feeling. Chthon’s corruption was also visually represented in the vines that spread everywhere.

The Abbey, the heroes’ base of operations, is a supernatural structure, yet it needed to be an inviting place for our heroes to live. We focused on balancing that in the look and feel of the environment. The Abbey is powered by a demon’s hellfire, yet still feels warm and inviting, like a wood burning fire drawing you into a traditional manor library. When you get further from the structure to the more corrupted sections of the Abbey grounds, the lighting and color grading changes to a greenish-yellow toxic, sickly tint that ties back to Lilith’s greenish fire. The Abbey contains classic elements of hearth and home, balanced with supernatural corruption and lighting that hints at danger around the grounds.

The Season Pass also comes with 23 Premium Skins for the existing cast. Given the Marvel Universe’s long and colorful history, how did you decide which iterations of each Marvel hero would be represented in the skins?

Moellers: Our creative director Jake Solomon was really excited to see some of his favorite 90’s comic versions of certain characters, so some of the skins were chosen for their fun, classic designs. A few of the designs were just so iconic that we picked them for that reason alone–Magik’s Phoenix Force, for example. And then we created some skins so that we could riff on the character designs a bit more, like Nico’s Shadow Witch, Iron Templar, and the Demon Spider for Spider-Man. What’s fun for us as artists is often the most fun for our players, too.

Source: Unreal Engine Blog

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